• Sweden edition
 

Record company lawsuits a 'threat to free culture'

Published: 24 Sep 2009 15:35 GMT+02:00
Updated: 24 Sep 2009 15:35 GMT+02:00

A new row over copyright has blown up in Sweden. At Stockholm City Theatre (Stockholm stadsteater) one play has been cancelled and another is under threat from music publishers. In both cases, the focus of the disputes is copyright. Are copyright owners advancing into new territory? If so, it could have serious consequences for writers, who have a right to be paid, and for theatres, which want to spread music and which should of course have to pay their way.

The Swedish Music Publishers' Association (SMFF) has written to tell me that I am spreading 'false information' when I argue that music publishers aren't respecting the STIM-agreement, which governs how royalties are paid when music is performed. They also say that I am pointing fingers (at what I'm not sure) in the discussion of Stockholm Stadsteater's production of 'De tre Mustketörerna.' The letter is, like the whole of the music industry's action against Stadsteater, a threat to free culture in Stockholm.

If it hadn't been the case that they had themselves sent their letter to Svenska Dagbladet for publication, I would have sent this response directly to them.

The music publishers describe in their letter their "important role as a link between theatres and copyright owners" and explain that "the publishers have used all available means during the summer and early autumn to try to find a solution in the context of the agreements that the publishers have with their writers."

As the person with political responsibility for Stockholm stadsteater, I interpret the STIM agreement in the same way as the theatres' own organization Svensk Scenkonst. STIM's assertion that the use of the music falls outside the terms of the agreement is not of decisive significance.

STIM does not have the right either to unilaterally interpret the agreement or change the terms of the agreement without prior negotiation with Svensk Scenkonst.

But this is not what the discussion is really about. What it actually centres on is how music publishers act towards theatres that want to use music in their productions.

De Tre Musketörerna quickly became a success following its première this spring. It has played to full houses ever since. During the spring, Universal Music Publishing AB sent a letter to Stadsteater claiming that the music in the play constituted use of their so-called 'grand rights'

Despite the fact that Stadsteater believed and continues to believe that the use of music in De Tre Musketörerna was covered by the STIM agreement, it signed a settlement with Universal with the aim of keeping good relations and avoiding a legal wrangle.

Moreover, Stadsteater has made great efforts during the spring and summer to come to agreement with the music publishers over the issue of extra compensation for copyright owners. This effort has gone unrecognized by a number of publishers despite the fact that, as SMFF itself points out, several of the copyright owners are positive to their work being performed in the play.

By the day of the new première, August 14th, Stadsteatern had still not received any answer to its inquiries from the music companies. Two of the six companies involved had not responded at all.

During this process Universal - at the same time as having an agreement with Stadsteatern - has also declared that they plan to sue the theatre. The first time was at the end of April, and the second time was in August.

Universal also declared in August that the guest performance entitled Sounds of Silence from Riga, in which music by Simon and Garfunkel is played on a grammaphone in the background, should not be played in Stockholm. The play has toured across Europe and has never had any problems before. But suddenly Paul Simon has heard about the lay, and does not want his music being used, Universal claim.

I then wrote a letter to Paul Simon and asked if this really was his opinion, and receive a swift response from his representative Eddie Simon that something must be array here. Universal do not represent Paul Simon in contractual agreements with theatres, he explained. Universal then retracted their demand and said that there were no longer any objections. The Latvian theatre company had however already withdrawn the play, which the Stockholm audience now did not get to see.

If this was an isolated incident then it could be excused as the result of carelessness. Could it be that the threats and writs are the music companies' new business idea when record sales have declined? In the USA this has become a regular practice.

In the spring a court in Boston instructed Jim Tenenbaum to pay $675,000 in compensation to the five music companies - of which Universal was one - which had sued him for downloading 30 songs from the file sharing site Kazaa. This equates to around 160,000 kronor ($23,400) per track.

According to IFPI, which represents the recording industry worldwide, 40 billion music files were illegally copied during 2008. If every track was worth 160,000 kronor it would mean that the total damages would amount to 6.4 billion kronor.

When sales of music peaked in the beginning of the 2000s, total revenues from record sales amounted to $27 billion, according to the same organization. The purported losses incurred by file sharing which the damages claims were based on were thus 30,000 times larger that what record sales had generated. The case against Tenenbaum was thus not about seeking damages for losses incurred, but is part of a new business model for the music companies.

The risk is now that the same practice comes to Sweden. The question is therefore not only about whether Stadsteatern has the right to used the music in accordance with their long-running agreement with STIM, but that the major music companies have to stop with their threats to sue. Then you would stop using music. That would be a catastrophe.

In SMFF's letter to me it states that they want a dialogue. This is not achieved through threats or via the courts.

By Madeleine Sjöstedt

Editor's note: This piece was first appeared in Swedish by the Svenska Dagbladet (SvD) newspaper on September 22, 2009.

Paul Rapacioli (paul.rapacioli@thelocal.com)

Your comments about this article

NEWS_NOT_YET_IMPORTED
Today's headlines
Science
Swedes discover rare Antarctic fossils

Swedes discover rare Antarctic fossils

Researchers from Sweden have been speaking about a rare discovery of mammal fossils in the Antarctic. READ  

Ukraine conflict
Sweden Democrats reject EU-Ukraine pact
The Sweden Democrats have two MEPs, seen here with the party's leader Jimmie Åkesson. Photo: TT

Sweden Democrats reject EU-Ukraine pact

BREAKING: The European Parliament has backed an 'historic' agreement to allow closer trade between the EU and Ukraine, but the nationalist Sweden Democrats were among those trying to block the deal on Tuesday. READ  

Elections 2014
Löfven to get no help from Sweden's Liberals
Liberal party leader Jan Björklund. Photo: Jessica Gow/TT

Löfven to get no help from Sweden's Liberals

UPDATED: Liberal Party leader Jan Björklund says he has no plans to join a government with the election-winning Social Democrats, as Sweden's political future remains uncertain. READ  

Analysis
'Evolution' for Sweden's crowd-funding scene
Photo: Victor1558/Flickr

'Evolution' for Sweden's crowd-funding scene

The Local checks out crowd-funding in Sweden as US giant Kickstarter announces plans to launch in Scandinavia. READ  

Opinion
Scandinavia and Scotland: closer links?
Brit Kester Gibson (left) thinks Scotland should split from the UK but Swede Mimi Coglianos disagrees. Photos: private

Scandinavia and Scotland: closer links?

Scotland votes on whether to become independent this week and the Scottish National Party has suggested closer ties with Scandinavia if the 'yes' camp wins. The Local asked two readers if they agreed with Scotland splitting from the UK. READ  

Sport
Malmö gear up for Champions League
Sweden's biggest club Malmö face Juventus on Tuesday. Photo:TT

Malmö gear up for Champions League

Malmö are the first Swedish club in the Champion's League for more than a decade but they face a tough debut fixture against Italian champions Juventus in their Group A opener. READ  

Sweden earthquake 'was strongest in 100 years'
The town of Mora, near where the earthquake hit. Photo: Shutterstock

Sweden earthquake 'was strongest in 100 years'

An earthquake measuring 4.1 on the Richter scale shook parts of central Sweden on Monday and experts have revealed it was the strongest in a century. READ  

Elections 2014
Löfven rules out making government with the Left
Left Party leader Jonas Sjöstedt. Photo: TT

Löfven rules out making government with the Left

Election winner Stefan Löfven announced on Monday that he would not form a government with the Left Party, a move that party's leader called a "huge mistake". READ  

Elections 2014
Six big headaches for Stefan Löfven
Stefan Löfven: a man with a lot on his plate. Photo: Sören Andersson/TT

Six big headaches for Stefan Löfven

Stefan Löfven has started talks to form a new government, but the former welder faces huge challenges in bringing together an administration that will work. The Local explains why. READ  

Business
Microsoft to buy Swedish Minecraft makers

Microsoft to buy Swedish Minecraft makers

UPDATED: Microsoft announced on Monday that it was buying Swedish company Mojang, which was behind the hit game Minecraft, for $2.5 billion (17.9 billion kronor). READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Sponsored Article
How to start a business in Stockholm
Society
How I became a surf blogger when I moved to Sweden
Gallery
People-watching: September 13th
Society
Why is Stockholm's Södermalm so cool?
Gallery
People-watching: September 11th
Blog updates

15 September

Liten, litet, små & lilla (The Swedish Teacher) »

"Hej igen! Have you ever been confused about when to use “liten”, “litet”, “små” and “lilla”? Today I’m going to sort out how use the adjective “liten” (small) and the different forms of it. Liten or litet? “Liten” is the form we will use when referring to a noun with the gender “en”. For example: Min pappa har en..." READ »

 

12 September

EU sanctions: necessary, effective and timely (The Diplomatic Dispatch) »

"Regular readers of this blog know I’ve written about the Russia-Ukraine crisis here. Today I’ve chosen to share an article by the UK Minister for Europe, David Lidington, with my readers: This week the European Union imposed further sanctions on Russia. This decision followed months of destabilisation of Ukraine by Russia, and months of political..." READ »

 
 
 
Gallery
People-watching: September 13th
Politics
Five possible election outcomes
Politics
Sweden elections: How do they work?
Politics
Sweden elections: Who's who?
Lifestyle
What's on in Sweden
Gallery
Property of the week - Hornstull, Stockholm
Analysis
Five differences between the UK and Sweden
Welshman Jonny Luck is now a chef in Sweden
Society
How I opened my own restaurant in Sweden's Malmö
Sponsored Article
Stockholm tech fest: relive the magic
Gallery
People-watching September 8th
Photo: TT
Politics
Feminists fight for first seats
Politics
Immigration cut push from Sweden Democrats
Sheryl Sandberg says women have "low expectations"
Tech
Facebook exec talks women's limits in Swedish business
Politics
Left Party calls for justice and equality
Politics
Green Party wants 'better world' for kids
Lifestyle
The five best Swedish songs of the month
Sponsored Article
Introducing… Insurance in Stockholm
National
Huge clear up underway after Skåne floods
Politics
Sweden's Alliance reveals full manifesto
Tech
Sweden's highest peak to lose title next year
Politics
How immigration became a key election issue
Sponsored Article
Graduates: Insure your income in Sweden with AEA
Sponsored Article
Introducing...Your finances in Stockholm
Sponsored Article
Introducing...Housing in Stockholm
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

857
jobs available
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions is an innovative business company which provides valuable assistance with the Swedish Authorities, Swedish language practice and general communications. Call 073-100 47 81 or visit:
www.swedishdowntown.com
PSD Media
PSD Media is marketing company that offers innovative solutions for online retailers. We provide modern solutions that help increase traffic and raise conversion. Visit our site at:
http://psdmedia.se
If you want to drink, that’s your business.
If you want to stop, we can help.

Learn more about English-language Alcoholics Anonymous in Sweden. No dues. No fees. Confidentiality assured.
AA-EUROPE.ORG/SWEDEN